In late 2006 Oakland, California's collaboratively-minded quartet The Matches issued their experimental second album Decomposer. Discussing it with Truepunk is drummer Matt Whalen.
Can you cite a couple of important things your music has done for you?
"One of two things would be the creative aspect and the second one would be the fact that we do get to travel all over the world and see so many cities and different places we would never get to see if we weren't doing this. So that's definitely a huge benefit and part of the fun of doing this."
Was any of Decomposer written on your travels?
"Actually yeah, the song ..Furniture and another one we originally demo-ed in Sydney of all places. We had three days off in the middle of the tour and we decided to go in and knock out a demo so that we could hear it. We got a rehearsal space somewhere in the suburbs and we did a demo with a guy named Lachlan who'd produced the Something With Numbers record at the time. It was all very spur-of-the-moment but it worked out. So we ended up working on that song and a couple of others in Australia too. Some didn't make the album but that trip to Australia definitely had an influence on the album."
It's obvious you didn't want to repeat yourself on Decomposer?
"That's something we don't want to do but it wasn't like a conscious thing. What happened was we toured the first record for so long and we were constantly writing, even when we were at home between tours, and when we demoed them and listened to all of them we thought 'wait, this is a lot different to what we were doing before'. So it just kind of happened that way. It was organic, just from all the touring we've been doing and all the music we've been exposed to and each individually listening to the past few years."
Do you feel so much touring can sometimes accelerate your growth in that regard?
"Oh yeah definitely, because in our first year of touring we ended up being in Europe and Japan and literally all over the world and getting exposed to other cultures and music is way different to how things happen in the States. That's, for instance, how we came up with the vibe for the song You Don't Know Me on the record, just from observing punk kids in the UK and how they react to the music and that's rubbing off on us. I would say that all four of our tastes have changed and evolved. We're all pretty diverse with the music we listen to but in the past two years of touring - because one of the things you do in the van to kill time is to listen to music - I think we all went through big musical growths and expanded our tastes."
Were there any arguments in the studio over Decomposer's musical direction?
"No, we're pretty much all directionally on the same page. Sometimes little things come up but we've never been a band to have fights about anything especially with music, we all have the same vision and want to do whatever's best for the song rather than what each individual person wants. That's kind of our underlying philosophy and I think when you're in that mind frame it's easy to get along musically and to figure things out. Making music as a band is about compromising and working together for the same goal."
You utilised nine producers on the album including Tim Armstrong, John Feldmann, Brett Gurewitz and Mark Hoppus to name a few … how did you keep the sound cohesive?
"From day one we talked about the multi-producer approach and we didn't want a disjointed album so that's why had one person mix the whole record, all the songs except the two John Feldmann produced, they were mixed by our friend Matt Radosevic. So that helped ensure the record had some continuity. The mixing was huge and I would argue that it was as important as the recording because it brings out all the stuff you've done and emphasises it."
Brett Gurewitz must have been to work with?
"With Brett he demoed the song and he liked it and he told us to listen to David Bowie from the 70s before we came into the studio so we had that vibe in our minds. And we went in and spent 5 or 6 hour sessions and worked out the parts. Brett was really solid on getting the parts right and then we just put it all together. I mean if you've heard Bad Religion you know that they're vocals and backup harmonies and stuff are a big part of their sound so he had some great vocal ideas that he brought to the table. And he's just fun to work with."
And how did you come to collaborate so closely on songs with your manager?
"He kind of found us when we were toiling away in our garage right after high school. He's the reason we decided to pursue this full time because he saw that we had potential and had some songs that were worth developing and recording and so it naturally evolved into a co-writing relationship. He's taught us a lot about songwriting and stuff from the 70s that we hadn't even heard, important stuff. He's like the unofficial 5th member of the band almost in terms of his input and what we go to him for. He's been there from day one."